Reflections on Queen Elizabeth Stakes Day

Winx – Randwick – Saturday – Tina Turner’s Simply The Best filling the cauldron of the racetrack before the stands packed with 43,833 patrons – Turner’s rock anthem moving into the words ‘Better than all the rest’ – the great mare has been simply that. Better, greater, stunning and she has given the literally generations of fans memories of her athletic prowess forever.

Randwick was a sea of blue and the upper stand of the Members’ was two-thirds full by 10.20am, a full hour before the first race, no one was missing Saturday and Sydney turned on a sparkling day of blue sky to match with 26c. It was a modern day crowd record befitting the occasion.

Fans wait for the champion's appearance, picture

The feeling built with every moment towards 3.05pm. Race 7, the Group 1 Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m), the final time the world’s highest rated mare currently racing would step out. Then suddenly it was time, every viewing position in the stands and along the rails had been taken hours before. Outside the course on Alison Road a crowd had waited patiently for their close up view through the railings of the 2000m start.

The jockey’s room emptied of those not engaged in the race and they scampered across the track to stand on the inside Kensington Course to watch the race with a close up view of the infield broadcast screen.

Then Winx and Hugh Bowman came through the tunnel out into the light to walk to the track, a wall of sound engulfed them from the massed crowd, then an almost hush as they watched her stroll to the Course Proper for her preliminary. That set off another massive cacophony of sound of champion appreciation.

This was history and every patron, no matter what age, knew this was a moment of time to saviour, absorb.

Winx won of course, that is a matter of history now, with most gallant runs from Tomokazu Takano’s Kluger (JPN) in second, Godolphin’s Hartnell (GB) in third and Pat Webster’s Happy Clapper in fourth. The latter two could have been excused from meeting the mare again such have been their defeats by her in the past, but both they and their connections sportingly turned out and they are to be commended.

Bowman brought his mare back along the Members’ rail to rock star treatment, trainer Chris Waller went out to join them. They turned and stood together before the stands, Bowman raised his left arm in salute and Waller his right, Winx stood strong and forthright between them and they were applauded to the heavens. Spine tingling.

We need a statute of this moment for a permanent reminder of one of Randwick’s great days and greatest salutes of a champion.

Bowman salutes, picture

Then Bowman jogged her back up the straight for the packed crowds lining the rails. He stood in the irons as they came back to great emotion. Waller then led the two of them back to the winners stall. It capped a sporting moment of the highest order.

It seemed like no one wanted the moment, the day, to end, but there is a time for everything to end and there was a suspicion that the seven-year-old mare had also decided that there is a new life ahead. There can only be complete gratitude for what she has generously displayed for everyone to participate in.

There was another sporting moment of the highest order at the start of the programme when Glyn Schofield and Andrew Adkins crashed to the turf after Schofield’s mount was squeezed for room and fell with Adkins and his mount going over the top.

Schofield tumbled fortuitously while Adkins was nose dived into the turf. The moment Schofield stopped tumbling with instant concern for his younger colleague he was up on his feet rushing to Adkins who was flat on his back. This all takes seconds and Schofield might well have taken one of those seconds to collect exactly what and where he was, but he was straight to Adkins.

Staff and ambulance professionals were there instantly as well. Shortly after Schofield did take a sit on the track to collect himself. Fortunately Adkins ‘only’ has various fractures and he publicly thanked Schofield after his hospital scans and tests. Schofield replied urging Adkins to ‘rest up’.

Racing moves forward now with a lingering doubt as to what a Winx-free environment might be like, we have supped with sights and sounds of one for the ages.

The show goes on and next Saturday there are the final two Group 1’s of the Sydney season, the All Aged Stakes and Champagne Stakes. We might not cope well for a while, but thankfully we have the memories.


Thanks for the memories, picture